Thursday, February 28, 2008

His Working Title was Story Of O In Iambic Pentameter

I've been hard at play on the Possible Third Book (aka PG47 Story Of O Without Sex). I can't say I've been hard at work on it, because I've been having far too much fun to call it work.

Yesterday, when through sheer willpower I didn't write anything, I came up with one or two new scenes. I've already written 135 pages, which is a lot in ten days, even for me. Days like today, when I really have to do my recycling and have lunch with my mother, break my heart. I just wanna be writing!

I have to admit that in the neverending battle between me and the bleakity bleak, the bleakity bleak is in total control. Caitlin, my poor beleaguered heroine, is rivaling St. Sebastian for martyrdom, although I think she has more of a sense of humor about it.

The real problem (okay, one of several real problems) is that I've gotten it into my adorable delusional head that what I'm writing is, how can I put this, acceptable. Not necessarily to Harcourt, or any other publisher on the face of the earth, but rather in terms of straightline story telling.

Then again, I hear tell that William Shakespeare felt the same way about Titus Andronicus, with its rapes and mutilations, fourteen murders, and Mrs. Andronicus being chopped up for supper and served to her children.

Shakespeare's editor made him cut out the line about the children asking for seconds.

It occurred to me (as these things do) that while I'm a complete illiterate in young adult literature, much of my slowly gained readership is quite well versed in it. Some of you, I know, came to this blog from a sci fi background, and no doubt a handful are here simply because of my extraordinary artistic skills, and of course I can't forget those friends and family who read it because they feel they have to. Smooches to all of you.

But the rest of you actually know something about contemporary YAs. So those of you who do (or those of you who simply want to fool me), can do me a big favor. Could you, either in the comments, or if you're shy, through that darling "e-mail me" box on the upper left, tell me what's acceptable in YAs these days? What little I know suggests that they're mostly about vampires or cliques (and presumably cliquish vampires). Or Nazis. Or sexual slavery. Just about all of which, except for the vampires, P3B flirts with.

Okay. "Flirts" is a bit of a euphemism.

I don't see myself having the willpower to change direction with P3B while I'm writing it. All the new material I come up with increases its quota of ghastlihood. But I figure there's a chance that Harcourt will never choose to read it, and even if it does, it won't be for a few months, which will give me the time to come to my senses and do a major overhauling. That's assuming your comments give me a strong sense that P3B is way over the top (as opposed to only being moderately over the top, which I know is but a dream).

So I really would appreciate it if you'd let me know what becomes of characters in today's YAs. Degradation? Rape? Torture? Murder? Eating their mommies?

Billy Shakespeare and I would both be very grateful.


Becky said...

I think many 'horrible' or 'bleakity-bleak' things happen in contemporary YA. Gail Giles is a good example. Having a teen bury another teen alive? Setting another kid ablaze? Both bleak in my opinion. Rape. Murder. Kidnapping. All should be good to go. I would probably stop short of cannibalism though :) I did read a novel this week, The Compound, where the idea of cannibalism was tossed around quite a bit--as if eating a clone of yourself would be any less icky--but I'd still prefer no cannibalism in any P3B.

Paige Y. said...

I must quit reading your blog when I have a class in the media center -- I laughed out loud. You have upset my plans a little though. I read a play by Shakespeare each summer (it's part of my attempt to insert a little culture into my life) and the play for this summer was supposed to be The Taming of the Shrew. Now I may have to change it to Titus Andronicus -- your description is just too tempting.

I wouldn't worry about the bleakity-bleak. Plenty of YA literature today is bleak. I would, however, try to insert pieces of humor in order to break up the bleak. Also, one thing about young adults is that even in the worst of situations, adolescent problems of hormones, etc still take center stage.

Anonymous said...

I just finished a Caroline Cooney novel (Diamonds in the Shadow) in which a character was forced to murder her beloved teachers to save her sister's life. (It didn't work.) THAT was bleak. It doesn't sound like you're anywhere close to that.

As Paige Y. said, YA literature can be pretty bleak, but the characters are still somewhat focused on adolescent concerns.


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Becky and Paige Y. and Anonymous Nancy-

Thank you for all your comments and advice (and thanks as well to the people who've been e-mailing me comments and advice).

You'll be happy to hear there is no cannibalism planned for P3B. Not that I couldn't slip it in if I really wanted to.

My current plan (such as it is) is to write whatever I feel like writing (hey, I'm doing it on spec, so why not) and then if Harcourt actually expresses an interest in reading it, do a massive editing. I keep reminding myself that less is more, but right now I'm in love with MORE IS WAY MORE.

Just think of me as Self-Indulgent Sue. You won't be the first to do so.

Dawn said...

Hey Susan,

Your question about what's fair game in YA lit these days reminds me of a session at the ALA conference last summer. The session was on new trends in YA lit and the panel was quite interesting. Ellen Wittlinger (Parrotfish) and Perry Moore (Hero) were the panelist I best remember. Anyhew, one of the audience members asked these fine authors/editors/cartoonist if anything was untouchable in today's YA lit. There were two things that the panelist agreed were untouchable--cannibalism and bestiality. I think as long as you steer clear of those two topics you should be fine.

In my experience with teens sometimes the more bleak the book is the more they love it. I for one absolutely adore Go Ask Alice, which rips your heart out, does an irish jig, and stomps it to a pulp.

Go forth and spread your bleaky bleak as you see fit!